While there has been plenty of appropriate consideration given to the impact AB de Villiers will have for the Multiply Titans as the RamSlam T20 Challenge gets underway this weekend, the bowlers of the bizhub Highveld Lions, their first opponents on Sunday at SuperSport Park, have other problems as well given the star-studded batting line-up of the hosts.
It all starts up front with Quinton de Kock, one of the best white-ball openers in the world; someone who is capable of effortlessly scoring at a run-a-ball and then stepping things up to destroy attacks with proper cricket shots.
The potential answer to this problem for the Lions comes in the shape of Kagiso Rabada, another young man whose tremendous abilities seem to be expressed almost effortlessly.
Rabada has already said he has considered De Kock to be a great rival for many years, which can only have been sparked by their time together in the Wanderers nets before the wicketkeeper/batsman joined the Titans in 2015.
The pair of Proteas have never played a competitive match against each other, with De Kock being three years older than Rabada. But Rabada is the premier fast bowler in the land, and is clearly the chief threat in a well-stocked Lions bowling attack.
The contest between Rabada and De Kock is going to be one of the deciding factors in the contest on Sunday.
“You have one of South Africa’s most attacking batsmen against the new ball versus one of the most attacking new-ball bowlers in the world, and considering how well they know each other, having faced each other countless times in the nets, it’s going to be a real battle of wills,” said injured Titans all-rounder Chris Morris, who also used to play for the Lions with De Kock and Rabada, said.
“I don’t see either of them settling for a draw. KG knows if he can get Quinny out or keep him quiet then the Lions are winning. Whereas Quinny will probably try and lap KG third ball, just to make a statement!
“It’s going to be really exciting, my juices will be flowing at this mouthwatering clash – two of the world’s best limited-overs cricketers taking each other on!” Morris enthused.
While dismissing one of the Titans openers early on – De Kock or the in-form Aiden Markram – will give the Lions the inside rail to success, the home side boast plenty of batting power all the way down the order. Henry Davids is as experienced as they come and has started the season superbly, the incomparable De Villiers could be at four, and Farhaan Behardien, Albie Morkel and David Wiese are three of the best finishers in the country and have been a crucial part of the Titans winning back-to-back T20 trophies.
Still, current T20 theory dictates that the way a team starts in the first six overs more often than not determines their fate, so the clash between De Kock and Rabada will be a vital, thrilling contest.